When news first broke about Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, many could barely contain their excitement. Though cloaked in mystery at the time, we only knew that the film was the brainchild of controversial director Quentin Tarantino and that it would feature two of Hollywood's heavyweights, Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt, acting side by side for the first time on the silver screen.
[Note: if we're being *technical*, DiCaprio and Pitt have worked together on a film before, but you probably haven't seen it. The actors starred in a short film called The Audition in 2015, and it flew under the radar because it was actually created as part of promotional efforts for the Studio City Macau Resort and Casino.]
It wasn't until the full trailer for Tarantino's ninth feature film dropped a few days ago that we got a clearer picture of the movie's plot.
.. Still not sure what the movie is about? Good—Tarantino wants to keep the audience in the dark until they watch the film themselves. He even penned a letter asking Cannes attendees to refrain from sharing spoilers and reviewers to keep their commentary as vague as possible without giving too many details about the plot (and the plot twist!) away.
So, to help you out, here's what we know about Once Upon a Time in Hollywood so far.
It features a star-studded ensemble cast.
We know that DiCaprio and Pitt are the leads of the film, but Tarantino also recruited a whole team of Tinseltown giants to bring Once Upon a Time in Hollywood to life.
See anyone you recognize? I'll help: Margot Robbie, Al Pacino, Kurt Russell, Damien Lewis, Emile Hersch, James Marsden, Dakota Fanning, Michael Madsen, the late Luke Perry, Tim Roth, Clifton Colins Jr., and Burt freaking Reynolds.
It involves the Manson Family murders.
Fans of Tarantino know that lighthearted filmmaking isn't really his style; the director tends to take serious subjects like slavery (Django Unchained) and the Holocaust (Inglourious Basterds) and add his own campy, irreverent spin to them. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is no exception as the filmmaker sets his story in the year 1969 in Los Angeles, California. DiCaprio plays washed-up cowboy actor Rick Dalton, and Pitt is Dalton's stunt double and best friend Cliff Booth, and the two try to find their footing in a changing industry. The plot unfolds smack dab in the middle of the Manson cult drama.
Though the filmmaker insists that the movie isn't just about the Manson murders, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood does explore the string of murders committed by Charles Manson and his followers in 1969, specifically their murder of actress Sharon Tate (played by Robbie) and her four friends in the home she shared with controversial director Roman Polanski, her husband at the time. Tarantino reportedly contacted Tate's sister to get her blessing, making sure that she could read the script in order to make sure that her sister's story was not being exploited and manipulated in the process.
It's gotten rave reviews.
The film won't officially hit theaters until later this summer, but early reviews of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood are already in, and the critics are really feeling it. The Guardian called it "entirely outrageous, disorientating, irresponsible, and also brilliant," and Time Magazine hailed it "a tender, rapturous film, both joyous and melancholy, a reverie for a lost past and a door that opens to myriad imagined possibilities." High praise, right?
The cast was originally even bigger.
Apparently, the ensemble cast of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood was originally even bigger. According to IndieWire, the cast originally included other A-listers like Danny Strong, James Marsden, James Remar, and Tim Roth, but their parts were left on the cutting room floor.
It's possible that some of the above actors could make it back into the film though. In a separate interview with IndieWire, Tarantino actually said he's thinking about re-editing the film (he's done it before, with Inglourious Basterds in 2009).
"I may make it longer," Tarantino said, explaining that editor Fred Raskin's first cut of the movie clocked in at four hours and 20 minutes. "His job is to put in every single thing I shot, give me everything. That’s not unusual for an epic-y kind of movie."
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood will be available in theaters on July 26, 2019.
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